Creatives are multi-talented! Many of us have the entrepreneurial spirit! Some of us are a little more introverted, but still making it happen (Tara here, and that’s me!). But all of us who are creating fulfilling business for ourselves can feel stuck when it comes down to the “figuring out” part! Especially when we can do so many things, have so many quirks and passions, could package up many different services from what we’re able to do, and potentially work with so many different kinds of dream clients!
It can be hard narrowing in on what it is you want to be KNOWN for when you’re first starting out. (click to tweet)
But this can be an issue for so many of us even when (especially when!) we’re transitioning into the “next level” of our biz. Here’s what keeps us from owning that very specific creative expertise:
1. We’re scared of not attracting enough business by claiming one specialty.
2. We’re unsure if we have a creative expertise in the first place.
You would think “not enough business” is the main deterrent because it’s linked to money, but you’d be surprised. I think more of us have faith in the idea that “the money will come, I will survive” than we do “I know what my specialty is, and what I really can deliver in a very specific way for people.”
Many of us trust ‘the money will come.’ But so few of us trust that we really have a creative expertise we can really claim and own.
Examples of getting narrow with your specialty & starting to really own your expertise:
– graphic designer to digital designer for food & lifestyle bloggers
– life coach to family coach for kids & parents
– caterer to natural food parties & outdoor events
– interior designer to marketing consultant for other interior designers
So as you read through some of those examples, you may have been thinking in your head what your specialty might be. It’s a tough one. But one thing to really consider, especially if this topic is a challenge for you, is thinking about narrowing in in terms of the life stage of your work and business. For those of you who like to have linear goals (okay like me) think of it like a timeline.
If figuring out what you want to narrow in on is giving you fits, take a pause, and think more about the life stage of your work and your business.
JUST STARTING OUT:
If you’re just starting out, a good way to develop a specialty is to actually try to get how you work and what you offer more defined and watch the patterns emerge. You’ll also want to get more narrow with who your dream client it—the two should narrow together.
This is the part where a lot of creatives struggle because they feel that by narrowing in on what they’re doing, they’re saying no to clients who might want to pay them, but don’t fit their defined specialty. So forgive yourself for being a little broad at first, this is the time for experimentation.
But keep your eye on the prize. I’d say within one year, refresh and reframe your “specialty.” See if you can get even more narrow.
ONE to TWO YEARS IN:
This is a good time to really consider experimenting with getting more super-specific about your specialty, here’s why:
People are still going to try to hire you for the broader stuff you’ve been doing; it’s not going to just “dry up” because you are getting more specialized. But now you can break your rule when you want to, if you want to (we ourselves have had plenty of instances where someone came to us who wasn’t an “ideal client,” but the project sounded fun, so we decided to do it. And that’s okay too!).
The reason to narrow in at this point is because you can really focus in on what you are best at. That way, you aren’t spreading yourself too thin, or burning yourself out. You can have a lot of control over the offering you’re providing and definitely start moving out of order-taker role into guiding role.
This is also a good time to think about how you share your expertise that’s coming out of these patterns you’re seeing, which if you’ve been sharing any sort of content at all, you’ve already most likely been doing, but you can really focus on shaping the content that you’re sharing to assume more of that “teacher” role.
TWO to FOUR YEARS
This may still be a phase where you’re narrow in even more, based on all the points I shared before, but if you have already narrowed in, by now, you’ve gotten pretty good at breaking your rules when you need to, and sticking with them when you need to as well.
So now might be a time where you start experimenting. Can you get even more narrow with a specific product—a knowledge-sharing product, for example?
Can you get even more specific by telling your dream client exactly who they are? “I’m for _____.”
Do you have a way of doing what you do (a method, if you will) that’s the same every time so you’re really sharpening your approach and your deliverable for people?
BEYOND the 5 even 10 YEAR MARK… WHAT’S NEXT?:
Here’s what we’ve learned from our creative entrepreneur clients who are at this mark:
If they have been super narrow in one area, they may be ready to now widen back out.
For example: I want to go from being a life coach to a lifestyle brand.
They really want to shift from 1:1 work to 1:to:Many work.
For example: I want to go from being a brand designer for small businesses to being an advocate for small local businesses as a speaker/author/consultant for “how to start your own small biz.”
This is the time when you have a little freedom to experiment! This is also a stage where you might let some of those other distractions, ideas or opportunities that may have tugged you off track before, actually be something you dabble in.
But! if you’re switching your specialty altogether like “I’m going from being in corporate sales to being an interior designer,” you can feel like you’re back to the one-to-two year mark. And with your branding and positioning your creative expertise, as well as practicing and gaining confidence in that role and biz…you are, you are starting over. But! you probably will move through this timeline of feeling like a specialist pretty quickly – heck even if you’re just starting out, you may move through this timeline quicker than I’ve described – but I’m the conservative one of this Braid team, so take it with a grain of salt! But also with a grain of permission that you don’t have to know right this second what your expertise is. You just need to not be afraid of it, and keep moving toward it.